|For Immediate Release|
|Thursday, August 8, 2002|
|Contact:||Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106|
Certification Office To Reorganize And Direct Applicants On-Line
MALDEN - In an effort to work more efficiently, beginning Monday, August 12, the state’s Teacher Certification and Licensure office will shift away from taking telephone calls and will instead redirect applicants to the state’s certification Web site for information.
Instead of calling for information, Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll encouraged applicants to seek out their answers on-line at www.doe.mass.edu/educators/ .
“We are in a crisis mode right now, and we need to focus our energy on getting applicants with job offers for this September licensed and ready to go,” he said. “I will not allow our backlog to impact the need districts have to fill teaching positions.”
The office typically receives about 800 phone calls each day, and currently has a backlog of about 4,000 applications for teaching credentials. By redirecting the callers to the Web site, certification staff will be freed up to work more efficiently toward eliminating the backlog, Commissioner Driscoll said.
The certification office has been among the hardest hit at the Department of Education by the state’s budget shortfall. At this time last year the office operated with a full-time staff of 30 people. Since then, seven have been laid off, three took advantage of the state’s early retirement option, one left and one transferred to another division. The office is now down to about 20 people, two-thirds the staff of a year ago.
Since Education Reform was passed, this office not only deals with licensing, but is also responsible for the recertification of every educator every five years.
The office’s annual appropriation has also steadily declined over the past five years. In 1999 the certification office received $2,140,267, and in 2003 it will receive nearly $1,490,288.
To better serve applicants, in May the state unveiled an online certification system known as ELAR, or Educator Licensing and Recruitment. Through this speeded-up system, superintendents can apply for waivers and applicants can apply for certification or to get their license renewed.
A technical problem with the e-payment part of ELAR in early July caused the entire system to shut down for nearly a month, exacerbating the backlog. The e-payment system is now back up and running on weekdays, and will extend to a 24-hour system again soon.
Commissioner Driscoll praised the certification staff for the work they have done over the past six months. Despite being shortstaffed, the office has issued nearly 13,000 credentials since January.
“All I can do is ask the public to be patient, and to understand that right now, we’re doing our best under difficult circumstances,” he said. “We are taking this problem very seriously, and will do whatever is necessary to see the backlog is addressed as soon as possible.”